Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Deputies Harass Members of Don Stapley Legal Expense Trust Fund

Members of a trust fund set up to help pay legal expenses of embattled County Supervisor Don Stapley are being systematically harassed by deputies.

Mark Flatten, (one of the few remaining reporters at the gutted East Valley Tribune), broke the latest chapter in the Stapley saga this morning. It's interesting stuff, but old news to New Times readers who understand Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio's heavy-handed ways with political enemies.

Ernie Baird, (pictured), received a call from a deputy on Friday who wanted to know whether Baird was promised anything in return for setting up the trust fund, according to Flatten's article.

This seems like a real "then they came for me" kind of story, with a supposed "friend" of Arpaio's suddenly upset at the sheriff's tactics. If you put your thumb on Baird's name in the Trib story, his quotes sounds like it could have come from a stereotypical anti-Arpaio critic.

"This is not the Soviet Union and we do have free rights of assembly and association with other people," Baird said he told the deputy.

Baird's no raving liberal, either. He's a die-hard Republican who served six years in the state legislature, including two as majority leader.

Deputies also came looking for other trust fund board members, including Betsey Bayless, former Arizona Secretary of State and current CEO of the county's health system.

You could argue that Arpaio's office is just being thorough in a case of public corruption.

But one thing's for sure -- we haven't seen that level of scrutiny directed at Joel Fox and the mysterious Sheriff's Command Association, which made an illegal donation to the Republican Party.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.